Ludovic Chevalier is a Belgian web entrepreneur and the co-founder of Speaky, a social network and language exchange community to learn languages with native speakers from around the world.
Magazine MN caught up with Ludovic to talk about his experience as a startup co-founder and lessons learned along the entrepreneurial way, and also to find out more about Speaky.
Magazine MN: Why did you choose an entrepreneurial journey?
Ludovic: I believe that being an entrepreneur gives an opportunity to bring ideas to life and gather people around that idea. That’s it.
Everybody has ideas. There are just some people who are ready to invest their money and time to make those dreams or ideas come to life and available for everybody. Those people are entrepreneurs.
Since I have always been this kind of person, I guess that the entrepreneurial journey was just a logical choice.
While still being a student at university, I have worked on several projects with great friends to make some extra money. Some of the projects went really well while others failed completely. But while working on every project I learned a lot!
Just after graduating from business school I had to choose between the classic “find a job” path and a more risky but adventurous one.
My co-founders and I decided to take the second one and dedicate the coming years of our lives to building something that will have an impact on the world we live in.
Magazine MN: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ludovic: One word - choice.
Being an entrepreneur gives you so much freedom that your entire life becomes a world of opportunities and choices.
What do you want for you? What do you want for your company? What’s the right balance? It’s all about having the choice to do or not to do.
You are in the driver’s seat of your own life and that’s worth everything in the world.
Magazine MN: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Ludovic: Test, test and test again.
That’s the mindset behind the lean start up methodology and I am a 100% advocate of it! It’s unbelievable how much you can learn and how much time you can win by testing your ideas and getting as many feedbacks as quickly as possible.
Without that advice we would have probably launched our product in a year while it took us only a month! Now we have more than 4000 people testing our service and we learn everyday.
Magazine MN: What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Ludovic: I think that you can’t talk about lessons without talking about failures.
The greatest lesson I have learnt is that without a focus you will go nowhere.
If you are not focused, if your team is not focused, if your product is not focused, you just get lost and everything you are trying to build will fall apart.
All you need is a 'plan A'.
If you spend your time doing things that are not aimed at making this 'plan A' a success, your chances of failing increase dramatically.
Magazine MN: Tell us more about Speaky. What is the main mission of Speaky?
Ludovic: Speaky is a social network where one can learn languages by meeting and practicing with native speakers.
Our mission is to connect native speakers around the world with language learners to create language partners – or what we call language buddies – so that they can learn by practicing together.
What is so unique and different about Speaky is that we build the essential tools and the environment for language learners to practice online by giving every native speaker the opportunity to learn from others while sharing his knowledge.
- A powerful matchmaking algorithm to find the perfect language partner(s) based on interests.
- An integrated chat and video chat service directly available from the browser and mobile devices.
- Integrated language oriented tools such as a translator, message correction system and multi-language keyboards.
We give our users the freedom to use our environment in the way that fits their needs rather than giving a magical method. Our project is not only something that society needs; it is a logical evolution towards social sharing and digital education. It is available on http://www.gospeaky.com/.
Magazine MN: How did you come up with an idea of creating Speaky?
Ludovic: We are three co-founders from Belgium and there is a real problem regarding language learning in our country since there are three official languages: Dutch, French and German.
During our childhood we were forced to learn Dutch using traditional methods. A couple of years later, we were bound to see that the result is pretty disappointing since we still struggle to have basic conversations in that language.
However, the three of us were enrolled in the Erasmus and we reached a high level of proficiency in English and Spanish in only a few months.
One question inevitably came to our minds:
Why was it so difficult to learn only one language at school while we learned two in a matter of months?
The answer appeared to be crystal clear! We were talking to native speakers all the time, which means that we had “experts” to correct us, to show us the right way to pronounce words and to familiarize ourselves with common expressions.
But, the thing that really made the cut was that we were talking to people that shared the same passions and interests as we did, people we enjoyed spending time with.
Our conclusion was pretty obvious: it is easy to learn a language when you are actually willing to interact and practice.
Since then we knew we had to recreate this environment.
And thus Speaky was born as a social place where you can find native speakers that share your interests and passions and are eager to learn and practice languages.
Our entire concept and business model have been created around this main objective for recreating a social experience to effectively learn languages in a natural way.
Magazine MN: As a startup co-founder, what is your favorite productivity hack?
Ludovic: This is a great question because getting stuff done is the main concern every start up should be facing!
When you need to get stuff done you have no time to ask yourself “what should I do now?”.
So prioritizing actions and tasks is the key. That makes me win a considerable amount of time every single day.
First of all, I have set global objectives like: “Drive targeted traffic to our website”, “Develop brand voice and maintain top of mind awareness” and etc.
To achieve each of those objectives I create strategies, programs and tactics. All my time at work is dedicated to working on stuff that helps me to achieve those goals.
Through a simple five column excel sheet - always open on my laptop – I organize my workload using a simple Kanban method.
Magazine MN: What is your best advice for the first-time entrepreneur?
Ludovic: There is a quote from Seth Godin that I really like. It sounds like this:
“Don't find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”
This is the spirit you should always keep in mind when building your product. Are you doing this because you think it’s good or because that’s what people actually want?
Again, it’s all about not wasting time on things people don’t want and testing your hypothesis as fast as you can.
Stay focused, keep going, and by putting one brick upon another you will end up watching a wall.
Get in touch with Ludovic on
Ludovic Chevalier was interviewed by Natalie Myhalnytska